Arab citizens faced institutional and societal discrimination. Tensions between Arabs and Jews, sparked by two incidents of kidnapping and killing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem--one perpetrated by Palestinians against three Jewish Israelis, and one perpetrated by Jewish Israelis against a Palestinian--and exacerbated by hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in July and August, contributed to an increase in incidents of politically or religiously motivated violence throughout the country.
“Price tag” attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups) continued throughout the country, targeting Arab and some Jewish institutions, but were most pronounced in areas where Jews and Arabs cooperated commercially. The government suggested assailants were attempting to incite the local populations against Jews who did business where they lived. The most common offenses, according to police, were attacks on vehicles, defacement of real estate, harm to Muslim and Christian holy sites, assault, and damage to agricultural lands. In Kafr Qasem assailants attacked local businesses, causing property damage and leaving graffiti indicating they targeted the businesses because they were Arab owned. Other attacks occurred in Jerusalem, Baka al-Gharbiyya, Jish, Acre, Jaljulia, and Jaffa. There were numerous incidents in which groups gathered to shout “death to Arabs” and to attack Arab drivers.
In June 2013, following a number of attacks including car burnings and desecration of a Christian Orthodox cemetery in Jaffa, the Security Cabinet authorized the minister of defense to declare groups that perpetrated such attacks as “illegal associations.” The minister did so in August 2013. Subsequently, a dedicated police unit to handle these crimes began operations, and it became fully functional during the year. In the first quarter of the year, authorities opened 63 cases and filed 21 indictments.
Indictments were filed against three suspects in the February 2013 attack on an Arab-Israeli municipal street cleaner in Tel Aviv, and proceedings continued in Tel Aviv District Court at the end of the year. Following an August 8 attack on two Palestinians in Beit Hanina, authorities indicted 10 Jerusalem residents for assault and obstruction of justice.
Anti-assimilation organizations continued to oppose Arab-Jewish marriages. In August the anti-intermarriage organization Lehava organized a protest outside the wedding of an Arab-Israeli man to a Jewish-Israeli woman who converted to Islam. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin issued a statement congratulating the couple and endorsing their civil right to marry. Lehava also pasted stickers on an Arab-Jewish bilingual school in the Negev warning Arab students, “Don’t you dare touch a Jewess.” The Israeli Religious Action Center published a report highlighting the gendering of anti-Arab sentiment through exhortations to “protect” Jewish women from Arab men.
On November 29, members of Lehava reportedly set afire two first grade classrooms in the Arabic-Hebrew bilingual Max Rayne Hand in Hand school in West Jerusalem and scrawled graffiti with racist messages, including “Death to Arabs.” Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned the attack, as did Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Housing Minister Uri Ariel in their visits to the school the following day. On December 11, police announced they had arrested the Lehava members, who confessed to the attack; police also arrested other Lehava members, including the organization’s leader Bentzi Gopstein.
The law exempts Arab citizens, except for the Druze, from mandatory military service, but a small percentage served voluntarily. On March 13, the Knesset voted into law a conscription plan for Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) citizens; the law exempts those who were 18 or older when the law was passed. Implementation lagged through the end of the year due to bureaucratic hurdles, and as of November the NGO the Movement for Quality Government in Israel petitioned the Supreme Court to invalidate the law because it granted too much favored treatment to the Haredi community. Citizens who did not perform military service enjoyed fewer societal and economic benefits and sometimes were discriminated against in hiring practices. Citizens generally were ineligible to work in companies with defense contracts or in security-related fields if they had not served in the military. Some Druze opposed their inclusion in mandatory military service, and authorities jailed them for refusing to serve. The government managed a National Civil Service program for citizens not drafted for military service, giving Arabs, some Haredi Jews, Orthodox Jewish women, and others the opportunity to provide public service in their own communities and thus be eligible for the same financial benefits accorded military veterans. Many in the Arab community opposed the National Civil Service program because it operated under the auspices of government ministries associated with security. There were multiple instances of Haredi communities ostracizing Haredi soldiers for serving in the military.
In January the Interior Ministry announced it had appointed or would appoint Arab representatives to the ministry’s three committees of inquiry on redistricting and revenue sharing in the Negev, in response to a petition filed by ACRI. The government continued to implement multi-year economic development and social advancement projects for Arab and other minority populations, which were authorized in 2010 and 2011. The government employed affirmative action policies for Arabs and Druze in the civil service. As of June the government had filled 1,421 of 1,730 positions in the civil service designated for “persons of the Arab population.” The Education Ministry continued implementing a plan to place 500 Arab teachers in positions in predominantly Jewish schools by 2020. The plan offered partial solutions for many Arabs with teaching credentials who could not find work as teachers and for Hebrew-language schools that experienced a shortage of teachers in key subject areas including math, English, and science.
Resources devoted to education in Arabic were inferior to those devoted to education in Hebrew in the public education system, according to several NGOs, and some Arabs in ethnically mixed cities elected to study in Hebrew instead. The Knesset Center for Research and Information documented a 39.6 percent drop in funding for day-care centers, nurseries, and after-school programs for the Arab population. The separate school systems produced a large variance in education quality: 35 percent of Muslim students, 45 percent of Druze students, 51 percent of Arab students studying at mainstream Hebrew schools, and 61 percent of Christian students passed the matriculation exam in 2014, according to the Knesset Center for Research and Information, compared with 76 percent of Jews, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. The government noted the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education operated programs to provide free matriculation-exam coaching to Arab students. According to the government, the percentage of students in higher education who were Arab (approximately 26 percent) exceeded that of population percentage of young Arab adults (approximately 20 percent), although according to another statistic from the Council for Higher Education, 14 percent of university students were Arab. The percentage of master’s and doctoral degree students who were Arab was 9 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively, which was significantly lower than the Arab percentage of the country’s total population but higher than in previous years. The government attributed the increase to the opening of higher education institutions in peripheral areas more accessible to the Arab population. Of all Arab students studying in universities, 68 percent were women. The government operated several scholarship programs specifically targeting the Arab population.
Approximately 93 percent of land is in the public domain, including approximately 12.5 percent owned by the NGO Jewish National Fund (JNF), whose statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews. According to a 2005 attorney general ruling, the government may not discriminate against Arab citizens in marketing and allocating lands it manages, including those of the JNF. As an interim measure, the government agreed to compensate the JNF for any land it leased to an Arab by transferring an equal amount of land from the Israel Lands Administration to the JNF. Legal petitions against the JNF policy of leasing public land only to Jews continued at year’s end. The NGO Israel Land Fund continued its program to purchase Arab land throughout the country and market it to Jewish buyers, including in the diaspora. The organization claimed all the land belonged to Jews and described as a “danger” the purchase of Jewish-owned lands by non-Jews.
New construction was illegal in towns that did not have an authorized outline plan for development, which is the legal responsibility of local authorities. Arab communities that still lacked fully approved planning schemes could turn to their municipal authorities to develop them, according to the government. As of August, according to the Ministry of Interior, 131 of 133 Arab localities had approved outline plans, of which 62 had been updated since 2000, 23 were undergoing statutory approval, and 22 more scheduled to have new draft plans in progress by year’s end. The approved outline plans added an average of 70 percent to the land zoned for the communities, according to the government. The NGO Mossawa said that it was aware of only 64 recognized Arab localities and that of these, 45 percent lacked authorized plans, that the update process was lengthy and frequently was rendered irrelevant after the 10-20 years required for approval, and that authorities overwhelmingly enforced violations against Arab citizens. Localities were also responsible for initiating and submitting urban outline plans to the district committees, which approved any expansion of the municipalities. The government allocated more than NIS 400 million ($102.6 million) for the development of industrial areas in Arab localities.
Arab communities in the country generally faced economic difficulties, and the Bedouin segment of the Arab population continued to be the most disadvantaged. More than half the estimated 200,000 Bedouin population lived in seven government-planned communities. Approximately 30,000 lived in the 11 recognized villages of the Nave Midbar and Al-Qasum Regional Councils, formerly the Abu Basma Regional Council, and approximately 60,000 Bedouins lived in 35 unrecognized tent or shack villages that did not have water and electricity or educational, health, and welfare services. NGOs, Bedouin leaders, and the government noted that Bedouin towns ranked lowest on the country’s standardized socioeconomic scale, with most ranking a one out of 10 and only Rahat, Hura, and Segev Shalom ranking two out of 10. During Operation Protective Edge, Bedouin citizens risked injury or death from rocket attacks due to the lack of shelters and sirens in the recognized and unrecognized villages in the Negev. On July 13, a rocket hit the edge of Al-Makimen village, severely injuring two sisters, and on July 19, another rocket hit the village of Al-Jrabah, killing a Bedouin man and injuring four of his relatives, including an infant. The Supreme Court did not require the government to provide temporary shelters for Bedouin communities in response to an ACRI petition, although it mandated further discussion.
While 11 of 13 recognized villages had plans that define the areas of the village, in most areas residences were not connected to the electricity grid, there was no connection to the sewage disposal system, there were no paved roads, and only six villages had high schools, according to the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality. Additionally, residents were responsible for providing their own water infrastructure to bring water from a central line to their property.
In the 35 unrecognized villages in the Negev claimed by various Bedouin tribes, the government viewed all buildings as illegal and subject to demolition. In cases of demolitions with no agreement from the residents to relocate, the government levied fines against residents to cover expenses incurred in the course of demolitions. Many Bedouin whose residences or structures were subjected to demolition orders elected to self-demolish to avoid being fined.
The government confirmed that from January to June, the government carried out 208 demolitions in recognized and unrecognized villages in the Negev in 2012, with an additional 356 homes demolished by Bedouins to avoid being fined. The government noted its policy was to demolish “new vacant illegal structures” built without permits after 2010 and found in areas it determined to be state land, not belonging to any local authority. The NGO Dukium recorded 1,261 demolitions of Bedouin buildings from 2012 to the middle of 2013 according to 551 separate demolition orders; Bedouins demolished 636 themselves to avoid being fined. The government carried out 11 separate demolitions of the entire Al-Arakib village, which had been rebuilt on government land more than 60 times since 1998 despite multiple eviction orders, a 2007 Supreme Court decision, and police enforcement since 2010. The Al-Arakib residents maintained the government should recognize claims to the land, while the government claimed the Al-Arakib tribes were “invaders” who “do not and did not have private ownership over the land.” In August a district court advised the government and the Bedouin leaders to solve their dispute through arbitration. Arbitration failed, and the matter was pending before the court as of November 14. In January a Beer Sheva court dismissed two indictments against protesters in Al-Arakib charged with attacking police officers and disturbing public order. Of 14 original indictments on similar charges, the court dismissed or acquitted the accused in 13 cases; one case remained pending at year’s end.
The government maintained a program to encourage Bedouins to relocate from unrecognized villages to established towns by providing low-cost land and compensation for demolition of illegal structures for those willing to move to designated permanent locations, but Bedouins often refused to participate in this program because they asserted that they owned the land or were given prior permission by the government to settle in their current locations. Some residents were caught between court-ordered demolitions and the rejection of their designated relocation sites for reasons of overcrowding. Additionally, many Bedouins complained that moving to government-planned towns would require them to surrender claims to land they had occupied for several generations and would separate them from their livelihood. Conversely, the government claimed it was difficult and inefficient to provide services to clusters of buildings throughout the Negev that ignored planning procedures. Some Bedouins continued to pursue legal recognition of their 3,200 claims to parcels of land based on practices of land ownership and sales predating 1948. In 2013 Rabbis for Human Rights asserted that rates of crime and unemployment were higher in the government-established permanent locations for the Bedouin than in the unrecognized villages, creating a disincentive for relocation.
At the beginning of the year, the prime minister ordered a reorganization of the governmental authority handling Bedouin affairs, placing the authority within the Ministry of Agriculture. The minister of agriculture halted discussions of controversial proposed legislation on planning and compensation for Bedouin and met with NGOs and Bedouin representatives, including creators of an Alternative Master Plan for the Negev region that would support traditional lifestyles while extending services and civil rights to remote Bedouin communities. NGOs and Bedouin leaders noted that the implementation of the government plan for developing the Negev, with the resultant home demolitions and planned relocations of some Bedouin communities, continued apace in the absence of specific legislation to address Bedouin land claims. In May the Beer Sheva District Court rejected the state’s appeal against a decision by a lower-level court to cancel 51 demolition orders against the homes of 500 Bedouin residents of al-Sira village.
The law bars family reunification when a citizen’s spouse is a non-Jewish citizen of Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon. Citizens may apply for temporary visit permits for Palestinian male spouses age 35 or older or Palestinian female spouses age 25 or older, but they may not receive residency based on their marriage and have no path to citizenship. The government had yet to implement a policy in response to a 2010 Supreme Court recommendation that social services be provided to an estimated 5,000 Palestinian spouses of citizens granted “staying permits” to reside legally in Israel.
The government generally prohibited Druze citizens and residents from visiting Syria. The government, however, coordinated with the UN Disengagement Observer Force for Druze residents of the Golan Heights to attend college in Syria and permitted the Druze religious leadership to attend religious meetings in Damascus. The government also allowed noncitizen Druze residents from the Golan Heights to visit holy sites in Syria through the ICRC-managed pilgrimage program, but it had prevented family visitations since 1982. The government facilitated the entry of several hundred Syrian nationals, including Druze, to the country to receive medical treatment.
An estimated population of 130,000 Ethiopian Jews faced persistent societal discrimination, although officials and the majority of citizens quickly and publicly criticized discriminatory acts against them. In December 2013 officials of Magen David Adom--a national organization that provides prehospital emergency services, national blood collection, storage, and distribution services, and acts as an auxiliary service to the IDF during times of war--holding a blood drive at the Knesset refused to accept blood from a Knesset member of Ethiopian descent, sparking an emergency session of the health committee to discuss discrimination faced by the Ethiopian community. Magen David Adom blood-donation criteria prevented those who had lived in endemic malaria or AIDS areas from donating.
Continued reports of discrimination by Ashkenazi Jews of European descent against Sephardic (Mizrachi) Jews of Middle Eastern descent fueled a national debate on this topic. Organizations representing Mizrachi Jews from various Middle Eastern countries claimed that government negligence in pursuing reparations for property losses for Jews from Arab countries and Iran had exacerbated social stratification along ethnic lines since the establishment of the state and during subsequent waves of (sometimes forced) immigration.
A survey commissioned by the Economy Ministry’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found 42 percent of employers would prefer not to hire Arab men and 41 percent would prefer not to hire an Arab mother of young children. Of all respondents 46 percent said they were reluctant to work with an Arab man, and 28 percent said the same of working with an Arab woman (see section 7.d.).